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German Law/German citizenship from great-great-grandparents

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QUESTION: Mr. Moser,

I'm interested in obtaining German citizenship. I assumed that was impossible because my ancestors have been in the U.S. for generations. So I was particularly interested in you comment:

You are a German citizen under ius sanguinis if your ancestors had German citizenship at the time of the birth of the next generation and passed on this citizenship respectively. It is therefore necessary to find out the exact timeline of events to determine if your ancestors might have lost their German citizenship (e.g. by giving it up voluntarily, or by accepting a foreign citizenship) or if they still had it and could thus pass it on.

Of my sixteen great, great grandparents, twelve were born in Germany. Of my eight great grandparents, two were born in Germany (the rest were born in the U.S. or in German speaking Switzerland - not that they really speak German there).

Surely one or more of these eighteen people would qualify to pass their citizenship onto the subsequent generations, if I'm reading your explanation correctly. The families came to the U.S. between the years 1840 to 1870. Some may have renounced their allegiance to the old regime. Others, I think, simply came to the U.S. and were happy to be here. They didn’t bother with the formality of obtaining U.S. citizenship.

I've researched my families (and visited their places of origin) back to the seventeenth century. I have copies of many of the birth, marriage and emigration records. But what can I do now to attempt this? Of course I’ll pay you. Please tell me where to start.

Sincerely,

Mark C. Frey


ANSWER: Hello Mark,

we have two points that we still need to clarify:

1. Prior to 1975, German citizenship could only be derived from the paternal line, thus we need to find a line of German citizenship going from fathers to sons through the generations.
There are exceptions if maternal Germans were not married to the father of their child. Also, if you are the direct descendant of a German mother and were born before 1975, you can still apply for naturalization in an easier process.

2. Between 1871 and 1913, Germans lost their citizenship if they did not register with the German Consulate or otherwise show their ties to Germany. They had to do this every ten years.

Andreas Moser
www.moser-law.com
www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Andreas,

Thank you for your prompt answer. It’s good to be able to converse with someone who understands his complicated area. Please excuse me but I’m easily confused.

You said: “Prior to 1975, German citizenship could only be derived from the paternal line, thus we need to find a line of German citizenship going from fathers to sons through the generations.”

I say “It seems to me that there can be only one such line, which would be the five or six generations of my father’s emigrant ancestor. I was born before 1975 (in 1948) so I could rely upon only that one line – is that correct? The Frey family emigrated from Baden in 1842.”

You say “There are exceptions if maternal Germans were not married to the father of their child.”

I say “That does not apply to me. My parents (and all my ancestors) were married.”

You say “Also, if you are the direct descendant of a German mother and were born before 1975, you can still apply for naturalization in an easier process.”

I say “I am the direct descendent of a German mother. Her father’s family (named Neubauer) emigrated from Thüringen in about 1870. Can this be of use to me, or does it apply only if the parents were not married? What is the “easier process”? Does it involve being able to speak German? I will do that.”

You say “Between 1871 and 1913, Germans lost their citizenship if they did not register with the German Consulate or otherwise show their ties to Germany. They had to do this every ten years.

I say “My families may or may not have registered with the German Consulate every ten years. They all lived in a small town about forty miles distance from St. Louis, Missouri. Of course, travel was very difficult in those days and I don’t know if there was a German Consulate located at St. Louis at that time.”

I say “How could I show that they registered with the German Consulate? How could we know that they didn’t? What does the “otherwise show their ties to Germany” involve? All of my ancestors lived and worked in a small German town, and spoke German, well into the twentieth century.”

I say: “Is there a best route that I can take to apply for German citizenship? What else about me do you need to know? I am anxious to do whatever is reasonably possible to achieve that.

Sincerely,

Mark C. Frey

ANSWER: Hello Mark,

if we can establish a paternal line, then we don't need to rely on a maternal line. Only if there were gaps in the paternal line would we need to revert to the maternal line.

The easier naturalization process for children of German mothers born before 1975 does require fluency in German, but does not require residence in Germany (which is normally a requirement for naturalization) and does not require you to give up your US citizenship (which Germany usually requires in cases of naturalization).
If we can establish an unbroken parental line, you do however not need to fulfill any of these requirements because you wouldn't apply for naturalization, but you would simply wish it to be recognized that you have indeed had German citizenship from the time you were born.

Regarding the registration with the German Consulate, unfortunately the burden of proof is on the applicant. The German Consulate in Chicago - http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/03__Consulates/Chicago/00/__Home.html - might have the records from that time and they should assist with the research if you let them know the exact names, DOBs and addresses of your ancestors. There is no Consulate in Missouri now and I don't know if there was between 1871 and 1913.

Generally, these cases pose no great legal problems, but rather require a lot of research. In my experience however, the longer back the emigration was, the higher the chance is that the chain of citizenship was broken at some point. And once it was broken, it cannot be repaired.
Then, your only chance would be naturalization.

I would suggest that you contact the Consulate to find out if your ancestors were registered there from 1871 to 1913 and then contact me again after you will have received a reply. It would help if you could then include a link to this thread. My e-mail is moser@moser-law.com.

Viel Erfolg!

Andreas Moser
www.moser-law.com
www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Andreas,

I will not be able to establish a paternal line. My great, great grandfather Johann Frey filed a “Declaration to Become a Citizen of the United States of America” on May 13, 1847. He signed the final papers to complete this process on May 18, 1857. I know this to be a fact. I have copies of these documents. I’m the family genealogist.

Consequently, there’s no point in contacting the German Consulate in Chicago to determine whether my great, great grandfather registered there between 1871 and 1913. It would be a complete waste of everyone's time. He relinquished voluntarily what I now desire so much to obtain.

If I understand your comments correctly, my alternative at this point is to pursue naturalization through the maternal line. As I may have mentioned, my mother’s grandfather was born at Albrechts, by Suhl in Germany in 1853. I don’t know whether he applied for American citizenship or registered with the German Consulate in the U.S. – does it matter on the mother’s side?

I can speak a little German but I am only at about the A2 level. I will learn what I must to become sufficiently proficient, if that’s the requirement for German citizenship. Please tell me what level of proficiency I must master. Must I be at level C2 in order to satisfy this requirement?

I owe you some money. Please tell me how much, or suggest an amount. Otherwise I will estimate what I think that I owe you.

Sincerely,

Mark

P.S. By the way, may I ask roughly where you live in Germany… north, south, east, west?

Answer
Hello Mark,

my compliments on the research you have already done and how far you managed to go back!

On the mother's side, it is also relevant if any of the ancestors' lost German citizenship due to naturalization in the US. We would need to establish an intact line of German citizenship all the way to your mother.
If she was German at the time she gave birth to you, you can use the naturalization route without living in Germany and without having to give up your US citizenship. In that case, the language requirement is usually C1. For more details on that option, see the link at no. 8 of these FAQ: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/naturalization-in-germany-from-abro

If neither of your parents was still German at the time of your birth, then your only option is regular naturalization. The main problem here is probably that Germany would require you to relinquish your US citizenship unless you can show that this would pose an extreme and undue hardship in your specific case. Because US property and inheritance law does usually not discriminate against non-US citizens, this criterion is only fulfilled in very special circumstances.

If your goal is living in Germany, you can of course always obtain a residence permit. Even without citizenship, it is perfectly possible to live in Germany and enjoy most rights (except voting).

Andreas Moser
www.moser-law.com
www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com

P.S. I don't live in Germany at the moment, I am in Italy for a year. But I come from Bavaria, a small village called Ammerthal to be exact. I went to school in nearby Amberg and to university in Regensburg.

P.P.S. You don't owe me anything, really! I am doing this voluntarily and I love to help. But AllExperts does allow donations on my profile, and of course I do appreciate if you wish to contribute something.  

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Andreas Moser

Expertise

Extensive experience in international family law, especially international child abductions and child custody cases. All other areas of German law as well: constitutional law, criminal law, business and contract law, immigration law, inheritance law, and so on.

Experience

Lawyer in Germany from 2002 to 2009. Lawyer for US Army JAG Corps before. Bar-certified specialisation in family law and in administrative law. Articles and lectures about international and domestic family law.

Publications
www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com

Education/Credentials
2000 Law Degree from University of Regensburg, Germany 2002 admitted to the bar (until 2009) 2013 MA Philosophy at the Open University, UK

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